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Thursday, October 14, 2021

Meeker Trail Loop Macricostas Preserve - Washington, CT

Meeker Trail, Macricostas Preserve

On a sunny morning in October at the start of leaf-peeping and slow drive season, I headed northwest to the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut. The leaves were changing and the 70-degree sunshine was what fall dreams are made of. I wanted to see the foliage and a trip up to my favorites spots in the northeast wasn't in the cards. How easily I forget that ( small ) mountain and impressive foliage can be found within our state. 

Northwest Connecticut is quintessential New England. It's rolling hills and bucolic farm properties. It's private boarding schools that rival most college campuses and historic inns and restaurants. It's hard to imagine anywhere in Connecticut is an hour and a half away, but the drive was easy, especially once I hit the back roads. 

By the time I passed the sleepy antiquey little towns of Woodbury, Middlebury, and Washington and pulled into the parking lot for the Macricostas Preserve, I was smitten. It's a wooded wonderland and the golden hues and pops of red and orange set the scene for a Hallmark movie. Macricostas preserve is a part of the Steep Rock Association, known for its gorgeous hiking trails and scenic conservation areas. This was a solo adventure with two dogs and a baby, a day I refused to waste inside. Whitney had slept (almost) the whole way to Washington and my brilliant plan to schedule the day around his naps was working. The dogs were happily whining in the backseat as I parked the car and the 10 or so cars in the parking area assured me the trail wouldn't be too busy. 

Meeker Trail, Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail, Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail, Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail, Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail, Macricostas Preserve

First Impressions

A beautiful hike in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut. The preserve is stunning and you will make your way across bridges and by beaver dams, through an open field and into the woods. The trails are very well marked and the northern portion of the hike can be done in a loop. We chose to head up the steeper/shorter way and down the more gradual route in a counter clockwise direction. This hike is kid-friendly, kid-in-pack friendly, and dog-friendly (on leash). Treking Poles would be nice on some of the steeper sections but are not required. It's the perfect mix of workout and vistas and a doable length for most hikers. Plan for 2-3 hours (with breaks and stops). Will definitely be back to hike this again.

Wararamaug's Rock

After crossing the fields and following the trails up, you approach a small vista with a view of the valley below. If you keep going, you will get to the highest point of your hike, Wararamaug's Rock. From 1,250 feet, this overlook offers panoramic views of the lake and surrounding area. It's the second-largest natural lake in Connecticut and is named after a chief of the Wyantenock Indian Tribe. Head back down the less steep route which takes you through the woods and beautiful foliage. Dog-friendly, super scenic, and a great workout. 10/10 recommend this hike. 

I tackled this hike with Whitney in his back (Osprey Poco Plus) and the two dogs on-leash. I nodded and smiled at the handful of comments surrounding my bravery for bringing the entire family on a hike (solo). It doesn't seem supernatural to me, just a system I am used to with a young baby and two active dogs. It only works because the dogs are well trained and I make it a priority to stay in shape. The extra nearly 30 lbs on your back adds a whole new workout element to any hike and two dogs on-leash require a commitment to organized chaos. 

Meeker Trail, Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail, Macricostas Preserve

Trail Stats

Date: October 11- start of fall foliage - 70 degree day

Trail: Meeker Trail Loop Macricostas Preserve (yellow/orange loop) - find a map here

Parking/Trailhead: Parking area at 124 Christian Street (off the of Litchfield Turnpike/Route 202). There is a large dirt parking area behind the red house. 

Route: Follow the only trail (yellow trail) out of the parking and to the field. Once you hit the field, head left (north) on the yellow/green trail along the western edge of the field. At the top of the field take a left and head over a small bridge and into the woods on the yellow trail. At the fork of yellow and orange, stay left on the yellow trail to head up the steeper section of the loop. Keep following the yellow trail (you can stop at the Macricostas lookout on your way up). At the junction of yellow and orange again, stay left on yellow to head to the vista from Waramaug's Rocks. After enjoying the view, head back the way you came. This time, when you reach the yellow/orange intersection, head left onto orange to complete the loop back down. Take a left-back on the yellow trail, back across the field, and to the parking area. 

Distance: 4.66 mi

Elev Gain: 759 ft

Time: 1h 51m

Restrooms: No 

Kids/Dogs: Kid-friendly, kid-in-pack friendly, and dog-friendly (on leash).

Meeker Trail, Macricostas Preserve

Packing List 

Hiking with a baby requires a few more accessories than hiking solo. Of course, I only packed water for myself while making sure Whitney had enough supplies that probably could have lasted him a weekend. 
Hiking Pack 
Toys (teether toys, noise toys)
Food (teething crackers, pouch)
Changing (small blanket, diapers, wipes)
Layers (baby hat, sweatshirt) 
Bug Net 
Dog Bags

Meeker Trail, Macricostas Preserve

In The Area 

After your hike, take some time to explore this beautiful part of the state. The towns of Kent, Goshen, Woodbury, Cornwall and Washington have a ton to offer from breweries, ice cream, and chocolatiers to hikes along the famous Appalachian Trail. 
  • Averill Farm: (< 8 minutes) a tenth-generation farm and is the perfect place to go apple picking in October. You can also find pumpkins, mums, cider and cider donuts on the property. 
  • Kent Falls Brewing Company: (< 10 minutes) fantastic working farm brewery 
  • Henry David Thoreau Footbridge/Hidden Valley Preserve (Bee Brook): (5 minutes) well-known mass timber suspension bridge spanning 134′ across the Shepaug River - great for photos and hiking
  • Arethusa Farm Dairy: (10 minutes) full fledge dairy farm known for their icecream
  • Kent Falls State Park: (20 minutes) gorgeous state park with a waterfall and picnic areas 
  • Thorncrest Farms and Milk House Chocolates: (25 minutes) Quaint dairy farm known for their chocolate - great spot for the kids to see the dairy cows 
  • Macedonia Brook State Park: (30 minutes) scenic state park with a winding brook, camping, and awesome hiking 
  • West Cornwall Covered Bridge: (25 minutes) 1 of 3 covered bridges in Connecticut 
  • Bull Bridge Kent: (25 minutes) 1 of 3 covered bridges in Connecticut 
  • Rand's View: (35 minutes) hike along the AT with a beautiful viewpoint 

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